Lecture 1: The "Puzzle Picture"
Lecture: The "Puzzle Picture"
Welcome to Bible Survey: the big screen version, if you will. I’m glad that you are here with us through these sessions. Thanks for making this a part of your life. I think you are going to find it, as I did earlier in my life, to be a life-changing experience.
In my house on Christmas, every Christmas since I don’t know when, we have done a jigsaw puzzle; a frustrating experience for some of us. It lasts a couple of weeks, people working on it, on odds and ends, different people doing different things. In general, my family loves it. Probably the frustrating thing for me is to find a piece that I would bet any amount of money needs to go into a particular place in that puzzle, and yet I could never seem to get it to fit. One particular Christmas I was thinking this is a lot like the Scriptures. Interestingly, the Scriptures are kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. If you can think back to when you first opened the Bible, if you think about it, it’s like that, isn’t it? It’s a book you get handed. Yet when you open the book, it’s multiple books. And it’s not just multiple books, it is multiple chapters. And it’s not just multiple chapters, it is a whole bunch of verses. If you just jump into the middle of it somewhere and start trying to figure out how those littlest pieces, those verses fit, it becomes like putting a jigsaw puzzle together without a very important part. That part is the box top lid. Just imagine dumping out a thousand pieces without having that picture on the box top lid, and saying to yourself, “I’m going to put this puzzle together.” Could you do it? Of course you could. Would you go crazy in the process? Probably.
We do that all the time with the Bible, don’t we? We come to faith in Christ. Someone gives us a Bible. They hand it to us. They open it. They say, “Read John.” We read John. We begin to hear stories, maybe stories about David or stories about some of the judges, stories about Joshua defeating Jericho. These stories get scattered all over our lives. They are kind of like having a jigsaw puzzle with no box top lid. So, as crazy as it seems, what we are going to do for ten sessions is, we are going to create a box top lid. So when you look at the Scriptures and look at all of those pieces, you will begin to have the ability to fit them all into their proper spots, though you won’t know every detail.
I need to give a disclaimer at this point. That disclaimer is like this. Every time I do this, someone will come and say, “This was really good, but you didn’t go deep enough.” Let me just say, that is not our purpose. We’re not going to dig deep into the pieces. We are not going to pick up many pieces and look at them. What we are going to try to do is to create that big picture, so that will be our focus. I am going to invite you to take the big picture and then go deeper. Use this as a tool to go deeper and you will find that it is incredibly helpful and it will make a real difference for you.
Another perspective we are going to look at is the perspective through the eyes of leadership. In this particular case, what I am going to try to do as we put the big picture together is to attach to it applications and thoughts and look at some specific things that relate particularly to people who are developing influence, as it were, for the kingdom. Before you quickly say, “I’m not a leader,” let me suggest that you probably are and don’t know it. Leaders don’t just come in the form of pastors or elders or great speakers or book writers, or whoever that might be. Leaders come in the forms of moms and dads and grandparents and people who perhaps do the most important leading of all in developing generators of people for the cause of Christ. So this will have great application through various levels of your life and that is what we want it to have.
There is a third perspective that we will get glimpses of is how Jesus appears throughout the OT. Obviously in ten sessions together we are not going to be able to, as I said earlier, go deep with any of this, but I want to be faithful to the Scriptures. Part of the big picture is to help us get a faithfulness with handling the Scriptures. In the Scriptures, in the New Testament, Jesus says to his apostles and his followers, particularly post resurrection, that the Scriptures; and the Scripture for him would have been what we call The Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures that we are going to be looking at for five sessions, were all about him. So we are going to take some time through each of the sessions when we are in the Old Testament, basically five of them, and do some what I will call, “Jesus pointers.” We will stop and say, “Okay, let’s look at this through the lens of Jesus because he looked at the Old Testament or the Hebrew Scriptures, and said, ‘These are about me. You should have known these are about me.’” So we will just take a moment or two from time to time and say, “Here is one of those pointers. When you look at this through the lens of Jesus, you will realize this is about him.” That way, I think we will be building an important piece of perspective and faithfulness with regard to the Scriptures along the way.
We have a lot to do. In this first session what I want to do most with you is to spend some time and help you learn, yes learn, not just see, not just record, but learn. You will find one of my favorite topics really is the topic of review. I love to review. So we will review over and over and over again because our goal together isn’t just to experience the context; but when all ten sessions are over, to have the opportunity to walk away and to actually be able to know the content, to be able to manage it. I first grabbed the importance of this in 1976. I had just finished a grad program in a fine Bible college and really it did wonders for my life. It was an exciting time, probably the best education that I have ever had. It was demanding, it was hard. It was one year and every professor made it their obligation to make sure they put two years of content into one year. It was life changing, to say the least. At the end of that time I got a little postcard in the mail. On the front the pitch, if you will, was, “Come to the six-hour seminar and you will learn more about the Old Testament than you ever have in your life.” I thought to myself, “That is a pretty brash claim, I think I’m going to go.” Being the grad of a Bible college, I thought to myself, “How could anybody know more about the Old Testament than I know now?” That speaks of educational arrogance at it’s best. So I went to this six-hour seminar called “A Walk Thru the Old Testament.” As we were walking out of the seminar to do lunch, I looked over at my wife Alice and said, “You know something? For all the good that my Bible college education did for me – and it did a tremendous amount of good ; there is not any piece really of The Old Testament they talked about today that I don’t know something about – but I could have never put them together like they put them together today.” It changed my life, changed it enough that I spent 20-plus years teaching Walk ThruThe Bible seminars all over the place, hundreds of them. Every place we went, people would come and say the very same thing: “Though I have read the Bible over and over again, I could never see it like this until now.” Oftentimes people would come up and say, “I bet you’ve done this so many times, you could do it in your sleep.” The truth of it is, yes I can, I do frequently do it in my sleep. It sticks with you, it is a great thing.
The point being is, it changed the way I looked at the Scriptures. It changed the way I taught the Scriptures. It changed the way I studied the Scriptures. I am forever reading my way, as you will be able to, through the Scriptures and finding a piece you have never seen before and saying, “You know, that piece relates to this one down here. That piece down here in The New Testament, I just saw something like it up here in Exodus. I need to go back and look at this.” This is the way it works. This is the life-changing aspect of it. So be encouraged. You have chosen to do something that will be beyond your expectations in terms of the benefit it is going to bring to your life long-term.
Let’s take a look at creating the biggest possible structure. We will start big and we will refine it down to a little smaller and a little smaller, never getting very big, but getting enough so that when you look at the puzzle - that is, all of the verses in Scripture - you will be able to begin the process of saying, “I know where these fit. I know that this book belongs with this book and these things fit over here” and you will be able to maneuver your way around the Scriptures in a way like you have never done before. The first challenge we have is to create a big structure.
If you have pen or pencil and some paper, how about drawing three boxes. You will see from the boxes that I draw that this part of this takes absolutely no talent. Draw another three on the other side. We are going to take The Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew Scriptures. We are going to take The New Testament, sometimes called the Christian Scriptures. We are going to begin to put these together in ways to see how they relate in the biggest possible fashion.
Put the Bible as a heading, so we know what we are working with. We said before that the Scriptures are broken into books. We have one book broken into multiple books, actually broken into 66 books of various lengths. Let’s remember the 66. The Old Testament, the Hebrew Scripture section, we are going put 39 of those. Over in The New Testament section we are going to put 27 of them.
We are not going to be looking specifically at the names of the books, at least at this time, but we will later. But let me urge you, as we go through this, for you to learn the names of the books. You may say, “That sounds like something that maybe a junior higher should do or a grade schooler should do.” If you are an adult listening to this, you may say, “You know, I did that before, I don’t need to do that again.” Do it. Make sure that you know them. One of the keys to managing this is to actually have the sense of where the books are in the Bible by name. The only way to do that is to learn them. That way, when we are talking about, as we will, of matching books; for instance, prophetical books, those books that start with Isaiah and end with Malachi; with books in the historical books such as I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles; just by knowing those and knowing the order in which they appear, you will begin to make those connections. It is part of getting the big picture together. Let me encourage you to do that while you are involved in the ten sections and we are working on all of this together.
The Bible has 66 books. The Old Testament has 39 of them. The New Testament has 27. I am going to create some terminology for each of these boxes, which represent a section as it were, in The Old Testament or The New Testament. This is not found in the Bible, you need to know that. This is a way to manage it. There are many ways to manage it. They are all fine ways. With Walk Thru the Bible, as I mentioned before, we manage it by helping people learn Bible stories. The Old Testament was creation, the fall, the flood and nations for a thousand years in the Persian Gulf. There were stories, there were events, we interpret people that way.
I am going to give you a theme that lays over top of that, that helps you to think about the function of the sections as well as what is in the sections. It is another way of looking at it, but it is not the way the Bible organizes itself. What we are doing is trying to create something that helps us manage this important book that is and should be a growing and important part of our lives.
Foundational : Genesis – Deuteronomy (5)
This first section in The Old Testament I am going to call the foundational section. There are five books in that. Those five books, oftentimes called the Pentateuch or the Torah or the Five Books of Moses or The Law. These five books are made of up Genesis through Deuteronomy: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. I hope it tells us that what shows up here is foundational, it is compass setting. It sets things in motion; principles, outcomes, goals, promises, all sorts of things that carry all the way through the Scriptures. That is why it is foundational. We will look at some of those specifically in the next session together when we focus on these five books. I want you to hang onto that idea.
Historical : Joshua – Esther (12)
The second section we are going to work on we will call the historical section. In this section there are 12 books. Those books extend from Joshua down through Esther. These 12 books take the foundational things - listen carefully, this is critical to this process – they take the foundational things and they begin to show how these foundational things are lived out in this historical context. This is not a broad history. Sometimes people who are critical of the Bible are critical of what feels like the sporadic nature of the history that is found there. It is not sporadic, it is intentional. What is intentional here is, this is the history that begins to follow how these people apply or don’t apply the reality of these foundational things. This is like a spiritual odyssey, if you will. We have these things become important to life, they are life-giving, life-changing, life-directing principles, understandings, agreements, covenants, all of those kinds of things. They work their way into a people’s life. Down here in Joshua, Judges, Ruth, etc., what you get is a picture of how groups of people or individuals begin to handle these foundational things. So this is a history that is specifically oriented. It is not a history of everything about Israel during this period of time, but it is a selective history that shows you how this is happening. That is really an important concept to hang onto in the big picture of this.
Instructional: Poetical (5)/Prophetical (17)
Below the historical side, I am going to put another term called “instructional.” By the way, just because we call this “historical” doesn’t mean there isn’t history down here. It is just that the purpose of the history up here really is to give momentum to those foundational things that are going to go here. So history here has a different kind of purpose. Here, it is driving important things toward this season. Here, these things are being lived out. The instructional section includes 22 books. This includes a couple of big sections. We are going to put together one which is oftentimes referred to as the poetical section and the other as the prophetical section. The poetical section contains five of these books, the prophetical section contains 17. We will put these together in this instructional piece. We will cover these two sections together and take a look when we get there at both of these separately, though they both qualify here.
Why do I call this instructional? I call it instructional because this piece does not advance the story. This piece does not move history on. When history ends here, really with Nehemiah, Esther fits with the book of Ezra, as we will learn later on, these books all fit in here. They are not advancing the story. If you want to write a note to yourself that would help to remember this, they amplify the story. What they are doing is looking at what is going on here and they are trying to help the people in this history apply these things. Most often, what they are doing is, they are providing information that will help these people stay on track, help the people of God stay in tune with the program of God. Oftentimes it could be encouraging and more often than not, particularly with the prophetical books, it could be corrective. Because as we will learn in another session, the prophets – that is, the writing prophets, Isaiah through Malachi – the prophets are pretty much connected with crisis moments in the history. If there weren’t crises in the history, then probably we would not have these prophets. That is an interesting reality of our spiritual journey, isn’t it? That we do have crisis moments. When we do, even though the date has changed, oftentimes it is the value of prophetical words which consist of teaching words. We often think of prophets as being seers out into the future, and they were to some degree, but they were much more the teachers of this time. Frankly, what they saw out into the future was used more often than not to try to get people back on track here. Just like in the New Testament, though we are not there, an author,Jude, at the end of The New Testament, calls his readers to grow in certain ways: To grow by being in the love of God; to grow by building each other in the Word; to grow by praying; and to grow by focusing attention on promises yet to come. Even there,while he is looking outward to things yet to come, he is calling us to use those things yet to come to help us in the time in which we live. That is what the prophets were doing.
So the poets and the prophets worked together to instruct in this period. If you think about it this way, you have the foundational books with many things in them. For instance, the issue of faith comes to play. Remember Abraham, the father of faith. Some of you remember that he had faith and God accounted it to him for righteousness. That notion of faith goes all the way through all of Scripture. You will see it everywhere, in The New Testament, in the Christian Scriptures when you get to Romans for instance. How does it start? It starts calling our attention to faith. It is the same message as over here. That is why these are foundational, they carry through. So the foundational pieces here work their way down into this history. Once we understand this, maybe we can watch how people do. How does Joshua do? How did the people whom Joshua leads, how did they do? When Joshua was gone, how did the people do? How did they do under that leadership? We get a glimpse of Ruth, for instance. Ruth shows us another interesting way in a non-Jewish context to some degree of how people do. You can follow that all along. When you are here, you need to realize that the story is not being advanced. What the story is doing is amplifying.
The poets are reflecting, if you will, the hearts of the people of that day, how they think about things, how they relate to God, how they manage difficulties, the pressures that were in their lives, the victories that were in their lives; all in beautiful poetic form, some meant to be sung obviously. The prophets are more the teachers, taking a look at what is going on in the culture and within that context, addressing their words to help that culture stay within the context of foundational things because it is within this context of foundational things that the promises of God worked their way out.
So that is how this sticks together. That is a mouthful, isn’t it? It is a couple, maybe three or four mouthfuls. You begin to see how it relates, how it fits together. When you are thinking of books, you are thinking of Isaiah, you need to know that Isaiah fits in history somewhere. When you are thinking of these books in the law and the prophets, Numbers and the difficulties of that, you realize that these are all setting foundational notions, promises, principles that work their way into the history. As you begin to connect them – it does not happen all at once – you begin to get greater and greater and greater insight into this great book that we call the Bible, that has 66 books in it: 39 in The Old Testament, 27 in the New. Right? We will have these down pat as we go.
The New Testament
I know in these first few sessions we are focusing on The Old Testament; but let’s look at the New and create the rest of the big picture. You probably already guessed that this first section we are going to call “foundational.” The next session we are going to call “historical.” The next session we are going to call “instructional.” The same function. You have now seen how this function works the same way.
In the foundational section there are four books, we call them the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These foundational books basically portrayed again in our limited historical fashion, are not a full biography, they are a selective biography, if you will, of the life of Christ. The life of Christ becomes the compass center. In fact, as we said earlier, eventually it is the life of Christ that He is saying, “My life, who I am, all about me, is really what this is all about.” So when we begin to look at this, we will find that many things here we will see in a somewhat different perspective because of who Jesus is. We will leave that for a later time.
In the historical section we have 12 sections in the Old Testament, we have only one in The New Testament, but it has the same function. Foundational things are set in place here. In the historical part we begin to see how they are doing with foundational things. Just to give you an example: A couple of the books end with a notion called “the great commission,” the idea that Jesus has mandated his followers to go into all the world to make disciples. The first tier of that were the apostles, among others, but mainly them. If that was a mandate, a foundational thing, then when you come to the Book of Acts, you have to ask yourself, “How are they doing?” The Book of Acts will begin to portray that. That is why it is called “The Acts of the Apostles” in most of your Bibles. It is portraying how they did with foundational things. If you recall, for instance, with the so-called Great Commission, it seems like early on, once they were touched by the Spirit of God, they did really great in Jerusalem; but they seemed to have a bit of reluctance to get out of Jerusalem. So eventually God gets them out of Jerusalem and they begin to carry the message to the rest of the known world, into the Roman Empire and eventually beyond. You can track that. You can track their working out foundational things like that through the history - you have guessed it - what happens in the instructional section.
There are 22 books here. Just like the ones in The Old Testament, these 22 books basically speak into that history. Some of them come a little bit after that history, but they are still following it. They are really not books this time, though. We call them that, but they are really letters. They are letters from prominent teachers of the day. There are letters from Paul. There are letters from Peter and James and John and Jude, an unknown author of Hebrews. Just like in The Old Testament, they are speaking into this history. They are heralding these foundational things into this history. They are giving instructions about things that have never existed before. They are giving instruction about a thing called “the church.” Again, we won’t go deep here, that is not our goal, but we will touch this in later sessions. They are giving instruction about the Christ life, how it is that I now live my life in light of the resurrected Jesus. Nobody has really ever done that before. How does that work? They begin to speak into the historical reality. He came living out these foundational things and giving instruction to help them do that; encouraging them when they are on track; correcting them when they are off track; always sure that the people of God stay in tune with the program of God. Therefore we see the benefits of the promise of God. That is how it begins to fit together.
The Silent Years
In the middle there is another piece. So we have a dilemma here. That dilemma is that from the end of The Old Testament Scripture with Nehemiah and Malachi, that is the end, the beginning of The New Testament Scriptures, we have a 400-year period. In other words, when you in your Bible thumb your way from Malachi over to Matthew, that is not a continuous deal. You really are turning the pages and in between those pages is a 400-year gap. That 400-year gap is oftentimes referred to as “the silent years.” It is called that because even by Hebrew reckoning, there were no prophets speaking in the land. But one could rightly say it was anything but silent. Certainly, just because there were no prophets speaking, that does not mean that God quit working. In fact, God has continued to work with amazing aggressiveness in terms of setting the platform, as it were, for the coming of his Son, Jesus Christ.
We will take one session and take a look at the 400 silent years as well. Basically, you have groups that ruled the land and what they brought through ruling the land. We will look at important groups that existed within the Hebrew culture that had great influence that carried into The New Testament. We will take a look at some other philosophies and writings that also influenced The New Testament when we get there. This will be one section and we will do that to lead into The New Testament sessions together.
Quickly, simple things to remember: The Bible, 66 books: Old Testament 39; New Testament 27. In The Old Testament Scriptures we have foundational books, historical books, instructional books – 5 books, 12 books, 22 books. In The New Testament we also have foundational, historical, instructional: Foundational 4, historical 1, instructional 22. In the middle we have a 400-year period called “the silent years,” the intertestamental period. That will help us gain some understanding in terms of key things going on when we get there.
For the next four sessions beyond this one, we are going to be spending our time in The Old Testament Scriptures. The message for you is a simple one. I need to have you review - you are taking notes - between now and the next time we are together where we will go into the foundational section which we will call “the Pentateuch.” “Penta” means 5, “teuch” means book. Five books. These are the opening foundational books of The Old Testament Scriptures. That is where we will be next session. We will see you then.